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City Officials dedicated to Keeping Downtown Clean
Public Works Magazine, October, 2001
Public Works Magazine is the preminent publication in the United States for Public Works engineers and professionals. (see www.pwmag.com)
A tourist from central Ohio recently wrote to the Chicago Tribune describing a pleasant surprise. "On July 4, I visited Chicago for the first time. I was expecting a dirty city filled with graffiti and trash. What I found instead astonished me. Not only was it graffiti and trash free, it was sparkling and inviting. I felt like a little kid in a candy store as I walk around downtown.... After spending three days, I am still amazed at the city. I am still in awe that a city as large and complex as Chicago can be as clean and magnificent as it is"
Chicago did not become what some say is the cleanest big city in America by accident. That status was achieved through a concerted effort to address common problems faced by any urban environment. The city has long employed a fleet of street sweepers to clean more than 3,800 miles of streets curb-to-curb. The fleet operates on a regular schedule between April and December and works throughout the winter, weather permitting.
In the downtown area, world renowned as "The Loop" hand laborers manually sweep and pick up sidewalk and curbside debris. In 1998, the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, at the request of Mayor Richard M. Daley, supplemented the clean-up operation with the addition of a fleet of ten "Green Machines", vacuum sidewalk sweepers manufactured by Applied Sweepers Inc. (Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania).
This year the city is replacing the original machines with a new generation of the sweepers that boast several improvements including a recycling component.
The updated mini-sweepers are fitted with recycling compartments for cans and bottles, allowing operators to recycle as well as sweep.
"The original 'Green Machines' made a significant impact on the cleanliness of city sidewalks in the central area" says Department of Streets and Sanitation Commisioner Al Sanchez. "We think that these new machines will build on that initial success and, with the addition of recycling capability will help the environment as well."
The updated mini-sweepers are fitted with recycling compartments for cans and bottles, have more power, and feature an extendible vacuum hose that allow operators to reach into areas and tight spots not accessible to the machines' sweepers. Rear-view mirrors now provide operators with a better view of pedestrian traffic around the sidewalk sweeper.
While Chicago has recently helped pioneer the concept of mechanical sidewalk sweeping in the U.S., Applied Sweepers have been supplying pedestrian sweepers to cities worldwide since its founding in Scotland. These machines can be seen at some of the world's most presitgious locations, including St. Peter's Square in Rome and Buckingham Palace in London. In London, over 800 Green Machines operate each day and are part of the daily urban landscape in most UK cities as well.
The company developed its pedestrian sweeper to operate in high profile, pedestrian-dense areas. The fundamental belief that a sweeper must be able to operate around the public is shared by city officials around the world, who echo the sentiment: "If the taxpayers don't see us sweep, they believe we don't sweep."
COMING TO AMERICA
The Green Machine was introduced in the U.S. in 1996 and achieved most of its initial success with downtown Business Improvement Districts. Unlike much of the world, most municipalities in the U.S. do not have a mandate to sweep sidewalks. Therefore the intial response to sidewalk sweepers was varied. However considering U.S. muncipalities spend hundreds of millions of dollars on sweeping streets, it stood to reason that some money would be allocated to sidewalk sweeping machinery if such equipment was available.
As in Chicago, an increasing number of pro-active city leaders are realizing the benefits of clean sidewalks. Even though it may not be its legal responsibility, a city benefits in the long term when its downtown sidewalks are clean and safe.
RECYCLING OPTION EVOLVES
The recycling capability was Mayor Daley's idea. After the initial Green Machine success in Chicago, city officials asked the company if it could add a recycling component to the machine. Vito Pesoli, Streets and Sanitation's Assistant Commissioner of Loop Operations, was charged with implementing it. "We tried attaching some of our recycling blue bags to the orginal machines, but it didn't quite work. There had to be another way." Pesoli then approached the company, which then agreed to go to the drawing board to develop possible modifications. However, it found that a practical solution did not exist for adding a recycling option to Chicago's Model 414-RS machines. Fortunately, another unrelated design request made 5,000 miles away would help make Chicago's recycling idea a reality.
By 1999, Amsterdam, Holland, had seventeen 414-RS Green Machines that were based in a central depot and for the previous five years, been transported to their sweeping areas via trailers / trucks. When looking to replace this fleet, city officilas were also looking at the expense of replacing their trailers/trucks used to transport the machines.
Faced with this expensive option, Amsterdam asked the company to design a machine that could transit from depot to a job at a speed of 10mph, with a degree of security and operator comfort. To do this, a new twin-wheeled seat was designed with its own independent suspension to accomodate the increased speed, thereby allowing the operator to transit to his sweeping area at a comparible pace to the truck/trailer option. Amsterdam had a solution to its problem and replaced its original machines and the new 424-HS (High Speed) Green Machine was officially launched.
Due to the increased size of the seat unit, a spacious rear stowage area now existed on the model 424 and the recycling option was now viable. The sweeper manufacturer's top design consultant, Dawson Sellar (former Porsche car designer), went to work on incorporating the recycling option into the 424's storage compartment. After several design proposals were submitted to Mayor Daley and Streets & Sanitation officials, a final design ws agreed upon in October 2000 and the recycling unit - with its sealed and enclosed twin compartment that is part of the machine's chassis-was now a reality. After taking delivery of 15 recycling units this past summer, Chicago became what is believed to be the first city in the world to officially add recycling to a daily sidewalk sweeping operation.
Chicago is committed to remaining a clean, inviting destination for the millions of tourists and guests who visit the city every year. Folks like the guest from Ohio are taking notice and coming back.
Operations Director Vito Pesoli (left) and Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez (center) watch Green Machine operator Linda Griffith take the new machine through its paces on LaSalle Street in downtown Chicago.